The Most Important Thing You Can Do…

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It happened twice yesterday. In the span of fours hours, two people I deeply respect said the exact same thing.

Yesterday morning, I went to see Jeffrey Gitomer (best-selling author of The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling and every other Little Book of… business and management book) speak. Gitomer is pretty clear about what it takes to be successful. He believes that the greatest sales people and marketing professionals are the ones who read and write… a lot. While many people who see Gitomer can easily walk away with the message that the secret of success is in the writing, after spending some time with him, it’s obvious that the real secret (for him) is in the reading. Gitomer reads a ton. He not only collects the books that inspire him, but he devours them and surrounds himself with them. He loves words. He’s constantly learning and educating himself, and – from there – the ideas for his writing (whether it’s a book, article, presentation or tweet) flow from an overflowing brain of ideas and inspiration.

Then, it happened again.

After Gitomer’s presentation, I went for lunch with Julien Smith (co-author with Chris Brogan of Trust Agents and a co-host on the Media Hacks podcast). Julien was telling me about Charlie Munger (one of Warren Buffet‘s peers) and his passion for reading. Munger loves reading. Munger believes that the most successful people he knows are those individuals who are constantly reading… like in a non-stop kind of way.

Most of us really give up on reading after university.

Most of us feel like we’ve "put in our time" with long text. Most of us may still read long text, but it’s mostly fiction and it’s mostly used as a form of distraction to forget about our current reality. I’ve been thinking a lot about reading lately (and how much I love it). The other truth that I’m uncovering about reading is that tweets, status updates and Blog posts that tell you how to generate more Blog readers don’t count much either. The majority of newspaper and magazine articles are probably right on the edge of valuable reading, but the guts of reading that will truly make you smart and successful comes from the high brow stuff. The books, periodicals and longer thought/research pieces.

"I wish I had more time to read." 

I hear that a lot. Gitomer told the crowd that it’s easy to read more: "stop watching dance competitions on TV. It doesn’t matter who wins." He’s right (he often is). People will always have time for the things that are important to them. You have to make the choice. There is something that comes out of reading many business books (or non-fiction or history or science or biography or art books) that you can’t get out of a TV documentary of newspaper article. The depth, the journey, the time alone that allows your own brain to wander and think is a critical part of where creativity and originality come from.

Make a commitment to yourself (and to your success). Start reading more… and don’t stop.


  1. So very true, Mitch. I love reading and I find it hard to understand that some people stop reading after graduation.
    Talking about people saying the same thing… The other night I was speaking to a local service club about social media and marketing for business, and I uttered almost the same phrase you did above: “Everyone has 24 hours in a day. We make the time for the things that are important to us.”

  2. In “Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist,” Lowenstein mentioned that Warren Buffett was an avid reader, too. He devoured the biographies of all of the great capitalists (Rockefeller, Carnegie, and etc). He also read tons of Annual Reports.
    Personally speaking, I try to read at least 1 book per week. While I’ve experimented with some fiction stuff recently, my main focus was biographies of successful people, profiles of successful companies, and psychology.
    Why did I pick those three topics? Well, when you read how other successful people did it, you can develop your own style of success. The same goes with companies. When you see how other companies are built, you can build yours, or the one you work for, in similar ways. And finally, psychology is important because you always need to convince people to do something (buy, tweet, work, and etc) and knowing how they think helps you a ton.

  3. With three young kids — the only books I am reading these days are Mr. Men, Richard Scarry, and Tootles The Taxi πŸ™‚

  4. After thinking about it, I realized just how much of my own time I do spend reading. It’s one of the main reasons I love my iPad – the reading apps (Kindle, Kobo and iBooks). Because it’s mostly on me, I find that I can grab a page here and a page there vs. before when I had to remember to drop a book in my travel bag, etc…

  5. Reading about how people did it definitely inspires ideas. On top of that, I think the act of recounting how they made their lives so successful also helps them frame it and map it in a unique perspective that usually helps those who are reading their stories think about their own “maps”.

  6. Mitch
    so true being the nation of book reader it is no surprise why we have been around for so long. Knowledge is power and the books is where its at.

  7. Yes, too bad we didn’t have 2 more hours per day. I make the time at night when everyone is asleep. Unfortunately, there is so much content to consume, I will read a chapter of one book and then off to another one, until I pass out.
    The opportunity cost is sleep, but my desire to learn is greater. Donna, most people I talk to are amazed how much I read. The crazy thing is, I’m amazed on how much they don’t.

    One of my favourite stories is the children’s classic The Emperor Has No Clothes. It is so relevant to the concept of treating yourself like a product and should be read by every single person who would spend time and money going to see some jabroni whose crucial pearl of wisdom is to read a book instead of watching DWTS. Kisses!

  9. I’ll argue it’s not so much reading than actually enhancing your model and comprehension of the world. Reading helps, of course, but so does listening to a well-chosen podcast or watching an eye-opening documentary.
    I side with the notion of not wasting time watching pointless shows and I go so far as to seriously encourage people to cut off mainstream TV and instead rebuild their own list of valuable, truthful and mind-expanding sources, be they on the internet or elsewhere.
    I made that point twice, once on an article about America’s collapsing economy and finance woes, and a second time in a blog post which was supposed to be on Google TV, but turned out to be more philosophical than anything else πŸ™‚
    6 monolithic corporations control the mainstream media, and they always have an agenda.
    Watch Mika Brezezinski’s reaction here:
    Yet another example of how mainstream media (and here, most of the prominent financial bloggers) failed to report on one of the biggest frauds of all human history:
    Happy reading!

  10. There isn’t a day in the week where I don’t have a book or magazine on the go. Most of the stuff I read, however, tends to be for pleasure…and by that I mean fiction and magazine features that aren’t always about business and top lists.
    Interestingly enough, I do credit my reading appetite for helping develop my writing skills.
    It’ll be interesting to see how my own kids do with it. We support it, encourage it and sometimes enforce it…even if it’s a Scooby Do Mystery book or Archie Comic.
    So I, for one, was encouraged by this information.
    Thanks Mitch.
    Sam Title
    Chief Executive Cofficer

  11. Since there are so little hours to the day, I have no time for fiction. Though I will make time every night to read non-fiction. Reading and writing are vitally important to growing as a human. In addition, they will improve critical thinking skills, negotiating skills, and business sense in general. Of course like anything else that’s valuable, there is a price to pay…. time.

  12. Fiction is a waste of time. What can Dostoevsky or Shakespeare, with their useless prattle about love, loss, and the soul, teach us about important things like how best to leverage our Twitter presence?

  13. I’m another big fan of reading.
    What I like most about reading is that it gives me information I can apply to other things and it also sparks new ideas.
    Since I work on websites for a living, I’m constantly on the lookout for ideas I can apply to websites that I bring in from outside sources. It’s difficult to do that if you’re not consistently inputting new info.
    Thanks for this. I wish more people would promote reading. I think it’s good for everyone and it makes me sad when people stop.

  14. Great post Mitch. Up until a few years ago I read mostly magazines and mostly for pleasure. Now it’s mostly been about Sales, Marketing or Business in general. It’s great to have real life mentors that you can converse with on a day-to-day basis…but mentors between the covers can be just as valuable.

  15. The only thing that I would add to this, Mitch, is that people should try to put more variety in their reading, just like we are supposed to eat healthy, balanced diets. If most of what you read is non-fiction, try reading fiction for awhile. And vice versa. At a lower level of detail, put some variety in the non-fiction that you read, both in and out of your niche.
    Variety is the spice of life.

  16. Hi Mitch,
    This is a tough one for me. I have actually started reading less. Maybe what I have done, however, is eliminate some of the short form and on the edge reading in favor of the longer and research type reading. I’m not sure. I just know I am becoming more picky about what I read and cut about half the blogs out of my RSS feed in the last month or so. (hard for a blogger to admit that – right?)
    What I find most interesting is that we are both thinking about this at the same time. (I wrote about it a couple days ago).
    OK, off to enjoy a 4-day weekend here in the States (you know when I just work but don’t call it work πŸ˜‰

  17. Mitch, I’m very surprised by your point and thanks for sharing. I mean, it is quite obvious. However, I understand how many can get carried away with daily life and forget to read stuff… I find that podcasts help a lot, blogs, etc. Nonetheless, books are different. Personally I have my monthly Amazon order and often I give books away for free in conferences or by way of Twitter (remember at this spring’s Webcom in MTL I gave away your book too:). Probably I have a weird relationship with books. Growing up reading Plato’s dialogues as stories had something to do with it :).

  18. Thanks for sharing Mitch! The post is extremely relevant as I just finished Trust Agents (no worries, I have also just finished Six Pixels of Separation).
    For me, reading is the input funnel for personal growth. Maybe one’s appetite for reading should even be considered from an HR perspective?
    Motivational speaker, Charlie “Tremendous” Jones, says it best, “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.”

  19. Coincidence?! Anyway… In conversation with a colleague yesterday, I mentioned that I read far more NOW than I ever did in university. In fact, in a way, I’m making up for: lack of focus in school/ school structure/ extracurricular activities. I’ve always liked learning and liked school, but when I was learning what I cared about.
    I do very much agree with your position on longer texts vs. social media “learning.” I had one poor marketing class in university (majored in entrepreneurship/biz mgmt) and when I got interested in marketing two years ago, I began to teach myself through the easiest, most economical way possible: Blogs/sites/social media. After a year, I decided to see what the difference was between blogs and books so I purchased Small is the New Big and Meatball Sundae and Trust Agents after that.
    The result: I have a stack of books waiting to be read and titles waiting to buy on my Kindle.
    Since then, I’ve canceled Cable TV and still read blogs but keep most of it at work.
    Addicted To Learning

  20. Yes! This was the one piece of advice I gave my younger sister (and that I will pass on to my children).
    I read more now than I did in college and I re-discovered my love for reading after I graduated πŸ™‚ In fact, I only included books on my Christmas list this year. Maybe it’s because when I was growing up, I spent a lot of time in the library. And even today, when I need to conduct legitimate research, I turn to the library – not Google (as many people do).
    What impact do you think technological advances have had on our ability to think critically and solve challenging problems? Sure, things like the Internet and Google help us find information faster, but we get the information in bite sized chunks – in the form of tweets or blog posts or short articles. We miss out on a deeper understanding of all that information. How do you think we can solve this problem? It’s a real tragedy.
    I’ll definitely share this. Thank you.

  21. When I was growing up my parents used to quote a Chinese saying about smart people having “a lot of ink in their stomach” – presumably from devouring books? Thousands of years of history can’t be wrong, I guess. Thanks for the reminder, Mitch!

  22. You said:
    Make a commitment to yourself (and to your success). Start reading more… and don’t stop.
    I don’t agree. It’s a logical fallacy.
    Reading more won’t make someone more successful. Read if you enjoy it.
    Successful people eat out at expensive restaurants. I’ll eat at an expensive restaurant. I’ll become successful. Nope.

  23. Thanks Mitch for this great post! I’d like to add that basically it’s never too late to get started with reading. Speaking for myself I definitely used to have a lack of focus to studies/books and believe that I am making up for it today. Specially in today’s world where we are so much distracted with a lot of noise I am trying to be committed to reading more than ever.
    BTW Listened to your podcast with @markwschaefer the other day on How To Win Friends And Influence People (On Twitter). Well done!

  24. Having seen Gitomer as well at TAOM (thanks to this blog) I can comfortably agree that the same message hit home for me. The further irony is that it was Julien whose advice got me reading a new book a week (his challenge to his readers). But it wasn’t until I saw Gitomer put it all together that my increased and sometimes obsessed reading was indeed leading to more writing.
    And again you’re writing, the more writing that I did (mostly about my own experiences) the better grasp I came to have on what exactly was being accomplished.
    Thanks for this reminder to keep it up. Clearly I’m getting too much out of it to stop.
    Happy Thanksgiving from your US friends.

  25. Most of my non-fiction reading is tied to either my professional blog or my hobbies. Aside from the occasional paper or study, the bulk of the content I consume is news, and most of that is to do with search engines, behaviour or social.
    The thing that is most effective in getting me to read and to absorb what I do is my blog. I try to reference and present a decent argument to support my ideas, and a lot of the time this leads to me citing references, or at least going back over subjects like maths or statistics that I do not encounter everyday.

  26. Great post, Mitch. It’s completely self-aggrandizing for me to claim that writers are smarter or somehow more successful. Let’s look at the issue from another angle, though. Are “thought leaders” as successful if they *don’t* read? I’m not so sure.
    Imagine making a really good point without proper attribution. Yeah, many people might not recognize that you’re riffing on Malcom Gladwell or someone of that ilk. Imagine if you give credit where it’s due, though?
    I’d think that most people would find that respectful. They wouldn’t react poorly.
    Thought-provoking post, my friend.

  27. Food for the brain!
    They say it’s fish, but I think the printed (or digital) word is more appealing to the soft, grey matter inside our heads. More people should read more often. And turn off the television (even if it’s just a few hours a week). It does a brain good.
    My only frustration with reading is choice paralysis. I research online at amazon, I take recommendations from my peers, I scan titles at the library and I usually try to jump into the first book that sparks something inside me.
    I don’t even think it matters if you finish all the books you start… as long as you keep starting.
    Great post Mitch!

  28. My favorite reading time these days in on airplanes. Not much else you can do there, and the seats are often even too cramped to open the laptop!
    I’ve also found some great books I might not have read otherwise in airport bookshops when I’ve accidentally read to my much on my trip and run out of book πŸ™‚

  29. I agree completely. I love to read, and always have and believe so strongly that there is a connection between how often people read and how well they write that one of the questions I ask potential analysts during the interview process is to tell me what was the last thing they read (and when) that wasn’t required by school or work.
    Great post. I hope people take this to heart, as I’ve found it very discouraging how many people say that they don’t have time to read.

  30. Hmmmm…so a person can be successful if you sit down and read all the time? Can one be a successful entrepreneur by just sitting down and reading all the time? MBA professors should be the best entrepreneurs? Those who do not read can never be successful? Is 2 years running a ‘second cup’ franchise less important than 2 years reading about running franchises?
    Or is it that an entrepreneur who picks up reading, could (provided the student is ready for the teacher) potentially leverage what he has learned while reading, to enable success? Is the ‘intent'(entrepreneurial leaning) or the ‘habit’ (of reading) more consequential?
    What comes first the ‘entrepreneur’ or the reading habit? The chicken or the egg?
    I strongly agree with you that reading is a great habit (my kids do not watch TV….no cable…or have regular video games….the house is filled with books and the kids reading habits, and grades, are well above that of most of their peers). Its very important to me too.
    At the same time I think your post is an over simplification of its importance when you try to draw a direct relation between reading and professional success. Reading could be one of the factors that could propel success but is definitely not the ONLY one or the MOST important. e.g: the best politician is not the always the most well read one.
    Reminds me of a successful fast-food retail Franchise owner who was convinced he knew all about technology entrepreneurship because he ‘read’ a lot about it.
    Thanks for another great post though πŸ™‚

  31. Reading is a habit. Got to create the neuropath for it, if you don’t you will simply forget about it, and you remember it’s time to watch your tv show. Once you have a strong neuro connection for daily reading, your brain will constantly ask for it. Your brain does the job for you it creates the need if you create the habit. Every time you react to your brain’s request, you simply reinforce the need for reading. If reading is important to you but it just slips your mind, add reading in your to do list for the next 21 days. It should be enough to create the habit.
    Allocating time for each type of reading is essential( same as you r allocating time for your meals). 30 mins blogs, 15 min twitter, 30 min book reading – the time allocation is completely up to you. Healthy diversity might be important as a variety of food is healthy for you, but don’t forget the basics. Reading a book is completely diff than reading a newspaper, you might need both to function but they r just different. Same as a gourmet meal is completely diff than eating a burger on the go, none is better they r just diff. Choose the experience that you want with the time you choose to allocate but remember balance is the key:D. What you favorite reading topic that you just love to indulge it, and never get enough? Mine is how our brain works. Addictive!

  32. I love reading. We should always be pushing ourselves to grow and expand our horizon. How else can people come up with innovative ideas.

  33. WOW! I book mark this to read later and we go from 2 comments to over 30! Incredible.
    Me and reading have a love hate relationship. I love to read but I hate if my brain gets too full and I have nothing to pour it out into. Or if what I’ve been reading is the same stuff just by different authors.
    So after reading business books since May I had to sit down with The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo. Now I have no less than 4 business books that I need to read. But my mind is not ready.
    So I’m re-reading Freakonomics again.
    Does anyone have this “problem” that I do?

  34. When people tell me how amazed they are by how much I read, all I can do is think to myself, that I’m not reading nearly enough, and that I should try to be much more like Charlie Munger and be reading constantly (if I can).

  35. I love children’s literature too… just don’t forget the long, deep and meaningful world of non-fiction. That’s where the gold and that’s where most people shy away from because they think it’s going to be too much like university.

  36. Agreed – reading is not the only thing, but (for me) it’s the most important thing. Like you, I like listening and watching too, but I’m convinced that something different (and bigger) happens when you really deep-dive into a well-thought out and long piece of text.

  37. One way to push things forward to start by choosing a big, chunky business book. Make a commitment to read one chapter each day… see how it goes… but do it for 30 days (build the habit!). Let me know if it changes your innovation and writing style.

  38. LOL… someone once said that Shakespeare was the original Twitter. That’s a lie, I just made it up.
    In all seriousness, I think literature (and newer fiction) is amazing escapism and opens up our imagination and creativity in amazing ways too.
    The best case scenarion is simply having a culture of reading within you, your family and your business.

  39. Mitch, awesome post. I now even try to “steal” time in the morning to read. I go from newspaper to book. Then before bed, “steal” some more time. Time is the enemy in all this. My best reading is done on vacation. Grab a book and read on the beach or poolside.
    Reading is a lifelong system. There’s no beating it. Trends change, markets evolve…and you have to stay with the game to play in it.

  40. People used to laugh at me when I told them that some of my mentors I had never met. It’s not all that difficult to take the words of people like Tom Peters, Jeffrey Gitomer and Seth Godin and actually put them into practice. Thankfully, folks like that also give you extra, free and additional types of content through the online channel. I don’t know about you, but I’m working harder to learn than I ever did in any school I ever attended.

  41. You nailed it, Mitch.
    My goal for 2010 was to read 12 books. I think I’m at about 15 so far, and still have a week at Christmas to blow through a few.
    Verne Harnish, founder and CEO of Gazelle’s Inc, a business growth consulting firm says that all A player people (the best of the best) have one thing in common – they read 24 books per year. 12 of each fiction and 12 non-fiction.
    Since I’ve started reading again, my horizons have opened up exponentially. It’s not even what you learn, but how your brain works differently, and how ideas start to flow.
    You can rachet up the power to another level when you get people on your management team, or peers to read the same books and then discuss what you each got out of them. We do this at our quarterly strategy meetings and the impact has been huge.
    The best time to read is on an airplane (and the lines and waiting before and after). It’s hard to pull out your laptop when you’re waiting in a security line, but easy to pull out a book. I look forward to air travel for this very reason – undisturbed reading for hours.
    If you are trying to get back into reading, I highly recommend that you start with fiction. They are a great way to get the ‘reading muscles’ back into shape and give you motivation to tackle the somewhat heavier non-fiction stuff.
    Try Time Traveller’s Wife or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. You’ll quickly remember why you used to love reading.
    There are of course many many easy reads on business topics as well, so start with the easy ones first. And if a book sucks, put it down. Nothing kills the reading bug faster than a bad book (unless you ditch it).
    Mitch – do you have a list of recommended books? I’ve gotten a lot of value from the Gazelle’s list:
    I’m shooting for 24 books in 2011!

  42. It’s fine to be reading less in terms of different types of reading, so long as you are constantly reading and learning. I too mix it up. Some weeks, it’s all about the snackable content, while during others, it’s all about one big, beefy book.

  43. It’s easy to grab a magazine or graze through a Blog. It’s very different from allocating time along to really dig in deep into something longer and with more substance. Let’s just not forget about that πŸ˜‰

  44. Hi Karim,
    I know what u mean when u read multiple books with a similar message. U feel like u r just reading the same thing over and over again. It normal, from what i know it is because your mind has already acquired a significant amount of information of that subject. Since you have a lot of neuroconections on that matter, you find that info redundant because u already seen couple of times before, however when u find something new, it’s much easier to grap it than anybody with less experince in the field, and u grasp it so naturally because u became an expert at it.
    But what happens when we switch fields, eg quantum mechanics. If we don’t know anything about it, it feels like a drag, because your mind actually tries to create new neuros for that specific info, and tries to find other neuros to connect with them and that process takes a lot of time and energy. However, this process its more engaging for Our mind because it challenges us to try to figure things out.Once we grasp, there is some sort of satisfaction, your mind reward you for our effort. I’m a student, so sometimes I battle with a math Problem for couple of hours, its annoying but once i get it made my day. Patience is crucial in acquiring new knowledge.
    Who knows…This might the reason why it’s much harder to be a generalist that a specialist…

  45. I never graduated from university. I’m a drop-out. Proudly. Seriously. A friend of mine who has an Ivey League MBA always jokes that I am way more educated and in a state of continual learning compared to them. They’ve, basically, given up on keeping up with all of the new business thinking.
    Their loss. My gain. Your gain too (if you keep at it).

  46. That’s a huge question, but in short, I think all of this digital goodness is getting a lot of us to think, read and create content a whole lot more. With it comes a challenge in terms of discerning fact from opinion, but it’s a part of the process.
    It is precisely because of these digital channels that I am reading, learning and creating much more than I ever could.

  47. Great post Mitch. I have a Finance Degree. I have 14 years of Direct B2B sales in every single heavy industrial industry except mining. Name the industry I sold parts that went into machines in that industry. I have crawled all over power plants, oil refineries and ever Waste Management Plants. I have sold parts that did not exist..yet..for Rockets, Missiles, and Space Ships. I have knowledge of all sorts of Manufacturing Quality Assurance programs. I even spent 2 years on North American Safety and Performance standards committees for Natural gas and Hydrogen Vehicles fuel systems. Reading and real life observations. Asking incessant questions even though I was a sales person. When Lockheed Martin installed my sensor wrong causing a NASA probe to crash to the ground I wanted to see what they did. The Probe. How it was installed. How it was tested. Even though I am not an Engineer.
    In January 2008 I got a sales job with a start up in Advertising. That folded in August 2008 where by I pursued my own start up agency. The big driver is I believe it’s 100% true that 50% of all ad spend is wasted…and anyone who can show a Brand which 50% can print their own mint of money. I now have an MBA in Marketing all from reading and discussions. I am voracious. I read the blogs of the people I admire who are smart, thought leaders (though we differ in who we believe they are…You are…Brogan is not IMO). The blogs I read are mostly creatives and some are just marketing/intellectual gems. I have always read the Economist, Fortune, Business Week, Bloomberg. And I subscribe to Media Post, Ad Week, Ad Age, Media Week, Smart Brief and all sorts of news letters.
    It is not easy. It takes a lot of time. And you have to enjoy it. I am a fact, theory and data junkie. But I almost never read any business books. They never can replace real life. They rarely have insight for me that is new and fresh. I want real world NOW. Case studies are great. But by the time a book comes out I have already studied the case on my own via the news or other sources. Like Old Spice Campaign to me was a creative winner but sales loser. Non-Advertising/Media Industry people had zero clue the Twitter campaign went down. And still no one buys the product. I don’t need to read in a book why. I already know Facebook is overvalued in the news and based on their investments. I called the, Asian financial crisis’s and housing busts long before they happened. Just by reading!
    Today even more is available on the web. And today I can interact with everyone I need to via Twitter, Email, or meet in conferences. It truly takes passion and desire. And this is why the most important thing you can do it do something you like. GREAT POST!

  48. I have to disagree… you’re making a direct line connection and that’s not how it works. If you read, your brain expands. It allows you to think and ideate in a different way. It may help you re-examine your current habits and routines and change.
    Alternately, if you keep doing what you’re currently doing, nothing much new will happen.
    If you’re just eating at the restaurant, nothing much will change… but you’re discounting who you’re eating with and who else you can connect to at that restaurant, what you might learn in that conversation and what happens before and after the meal.
    I don’t know about you, but I’ve had many meals that have, literally, changed my life that had nothing to do with the food.

  49. Try mixing it up – add it one book… just do a chapter each day… commit to it for 30 days. If it works, keep at it… you’ll be shocked by how it changes your critical thinking and improves your Blog as well. I promise.

  50. It’s funny, I do my best to quote or name someone who even inspired a thought when I speak live (or Blog or write)… no one thinks less (or more)… it’s out of respect. Why not say how an idea inspired you? It makes perfect sense to me.

  51. I’m big on the travel reading too. If I’m not walking, my rule is that I have to be reading. Trust me, there is very little else to see in a cab, airport or hotel… it’s mostly brown and mostly boring stuff. Read instead.

  52. No. It’s not one thing… but reading and being a constant reader is one of the key traits you will find in the most successful people. They’re not reading instead of working… they’re reading while working to make themselves smarter.

  53. I like the idea of committing to something (anything) for 30 days too – that’s where the habit starts to take root.
    The inspiration to read more for me has come from documentaries that are based on the creative class (artists, musicians, designers, architects, etc…) tons of great insights that leads to some amazing books.

  54. I’m with Alice… too many people try to devour a lot of books on the same topic. you have to mix it up. I’ll read a marketing book and then switch to a book about architecture, etc… I can’t/won’t read every book on the same topic in one run… it takes aways my appetitive to read.

  55. Ahh, those Gazelles always have tons of insight, don’t they πŸ™‚
    I do have lots of reading lists. Simply go to the search bar above and type in “business book” – you’ll find a ton of my reading lists.
    Happy reading!

  56. From an HR perspective I would hope that the books listed are actually books you have read and not just OWN….hmmmm πŸ˜‰
    My experience with reading is the uncontrollable urge to share bits and pieces of wisdom as I go along. I often text a friend a short passage or quote that I find particularly inspiring. I suppose it’s about sharing and at the same time ensuring someone else gets a taste as well. It is such a shame to keep it all to myself – I often feel like others are really missing out !

  57. One of the best things I did for my 4 kids was to declare an 8 o’clock ‘bed’ time. They slept at that time when they were younger, now they are encouraged to read for a while first. Otherwise they tend to just watch tv or play video games.
    Then it’s my reading time, too.
    I also own 2 companies, and volunteer. I still read about 1 non-fiction book a week, unless it’s Six Pixels – it’s too meaty to read through all at once. I’m still making my way through that and most happily.
    For people who read a lot – how many books do you read at once?
    I tend to have a couple on the go at the same time. I’ll have a ‘deep’ one like The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking, a reference one that I dip into like Six Pixels and The Little Big Things by Tom Peters, often a fiction and usually another non fiction like Trust Agents or Socialnomics. These are my current books.
    Then I write about them to lock in the learning.

  58. Fiction is also a way to explore new ideas, other people’s perspective and sometimes history. Fiction is also a way to learn about writing because it tends to be written by writers. Non fiction isn’t always written by writers.

  59. Great discussion Mitch, I too attended that session with Gitomer, however, the speaker before also had a great message before Gitomer spoke, His name was Tim Sanders. He suggested reading a book from cover to cover every 2 months and also keep notes. He felt reading a book from a customers point of view would help you. He also suggested starting a Knowledge Feedback Group. This is a great idea for all that follow you, how about it, I’m in!

  60. It could also be correlation and not causation.
    The kind of people who read voraciously are the kind with open minds and the desire to learn. Experience is the best teacher, and books are a great way to find the ideas and inspiration to try the things that give experience.

  61. This is fantastic! Currently on way from Toronto area to Montreal, and had same conversation with my husband. As a child, I was dyslexic and had to find ways to make my brain process words, but I did and resulted in being a voracious reader. The written word is amazing. I read at least 2 books per week.
    Gitomer is one of my favorites for not only sales but Customer Service, and appreciate the time he puts into reading the right things, before he writes and speaks.
    I just finished ‘Delivering Happiness’ – the Zappos story, that pointed me to many wonderful ideas and has me fired up to change the world – and also to Winnie the Pooh quotes. I must read more Winnie the Pohh! Life is simpler than we make it sometimes πŸ™‚
    Thanks for another terrific post!

  62. I belong to a couple of business book clubs – one is an international group that meets on Skype, one is local. We discuss a book over 6-8 weeks. It’s interesting how different people will get different ideas from the same chapter of a book.
    Our discussions end up ranging quite widely on many topics. I treasure this time and the discussions we have.
    One interesting side benefit is that, because we cover the book over a long period of time, we read other books, too and we see connections that might not otherwise be apparent. The book club book is on our minds as we read other books, so we see these connections.

  63. If I had as much money as Charlie Munger I’d probably be reading 18 hours a day. On one hand I feel tremendously blessed to be living in an age where so much stuff is being published that’s interesting and accessible to me, but on the other I feel profoundly depressed by the thought that there will be so much that I just will never be able to get to. My general impression is that even if you just read one book a month you’ll automatically catapult yourself to the top 10% of your company by the virtue of the fact that the vast majority of the people around you do not. It’s actually frightening how few people read in this country (any non-fiction thought-provoking bestseller sells less than 5,000 copies). Think about that for a second. Out of over 33 million people at best there will maybe be 5,000 reading the likes of Joel, Don Tapscott, Taleb or whoever else. Are you one of them?
    Speaking of great authors and books, has anyone read the latest book by Kevin Kelly called What Technology Wants that came out a few weeks ago? Take that as you will, but I’m willing to go out on a limb proclaim it as the most fascinating book that I have read in the past 5 years.

  64. Hi Mitch ~ This is a wonderful post and it’s exciting to see you encouraging the value of reading. Munger’s hunch that the most successful people are readers is actually supported by literacy statistics and research. Did you know that 40% of Canadians lack the basic literacy skills required for successful participation in the job market? And that people with low literacy skills are about twice as likely to unemployed for 6 months or more?
    I love your comment, “I wonder how many CEOs and managers actually think about [literacy] and speak to their teams about it?” It’s such a vital question. As our world becomes increasingly information-based and resource industry jobs (ie, forestry and fishing) are dwindling, more and more people are being left behind.
    Reading and writing are, indeed, skills for success in a complex world.

  65. I don’t read books but constantly listen to audiobooks while driving. In Toronto, that means plenty of listening πŸ™‚
    The problem is taking notes. It’s too bad that audiobooks aren’t bundled with ebooks.
    To help my network, I put reviews on LinkedIn using the Reading List by Amazon. I’ve got some books on my iPad. I like the ability to highlight passages but I’ve yet to finish a single book.

  66. … and as you have said, there are lots of places to read and consume this information and from lots of different people. I absolutely love business books (and I love Chris Brogan too)… it’s an amazing world where we can have that kind of choice and diversity.

  67. I saw Tim speak as well – so thanks for adding in that segment (I stepped out for a conference call, so it was probably then). If you have not read Tim’s three books – Love Is The Killer App, The Likeability Factor and Saving The World At Work, you should!

  68. I’m happy to recommend Delivering Happiness as well (we share the same publisher ;). Regardless, it’s a great book that focuses on the only line that matters: the customer. Make them happy (always… even when they’re wrong) and the brand wins.

  69. I used to run a business book club… it was a lot of fun and a huge learning experience. I would choose one book every month and then a meeting date towards the end of the month at my office. We would start off talking about the book, but it would evolve into a great conversation about life, business and doing more.
    I had to stop it due to my travel schedule, but it was always a lot of fun.

  70. I have not read that book, but I just bought it… so I will now.
    Don’t fret over what you can’t read… focus on the fact that you are reading and in that small percentage of people who are “getting things done.”

  71. I’d love to hear the stats on the other end – how many executives, etc… read and how many books, etc…? Thanks for sharing the other stats πŸ™‚ I’d like to think that a literacy foundation would like a Blog post about the importance of reading πŸ˜‰

  72. You’ll note that your reading or listening habits will change slightly over time. I loved listening to audio books for a long time, but now find myself with more and more time to read and less time to listen (go figure). Either way, being literate is critical.

  73. Funny you should post this Mitch because I went into Indigo last week to pick up a new book – and couldn’t find the business section amongst all of Chapter/Indigo’s stuffed toys and kitchen thingys… sigh…

  74. True to a good extent, because the fact that it is asynchronous and prone to the reader’s own pace, makes reading a very deep, even intimate way of sharing well-argued information. I wouldn’t give up on reading at all.
    In fact, I believe I read much more nowadays than I have ever read, even though I have always read a ton. Much of my reading happens online, obviously.
    The purpose is higher than the medium IMO.

  75. With a 2-hour commute every day, I get my reading in via podcasts and audiobooks. Regular visit to the library (remember that place?) provide me with my fill of Tapscott, Gladwell, Godin, etc while I’m captive in my car. I’ve never been so well read…

  76. I used to have a longer driving commute, and that made listening to audiobooks and Podcasts a huge part of my media diet. Things have changed and I’m often falling behind in my audio, due to that my reading has shot up dramatically.

  77. Wow. Thanks for this post (and thanks to @dbbradle for tweeting about it). I have fallen out of my reading habit as late and it shows. I can feel the difference, not only in terms of creativity but in terms of my own personal sense of power and joy.
    I am going to go straight from this post to one of the unread books on my shelf :). Cheers.

  78. Mitch,
    Such a great reminder. Most of the great leaders (maybe all) were readers. The book that flipped my switch was Love is The Killer App by Tim Sanders. He likens magazines and short text to snacks. Books are nutritious and full meals. Here’s to a better diet in 2011!

  79. I was just spending time with Tim (actually, it was at the same event that Jeffrey Gitomer was at)… if people really understood how important reading was to their success, something tells me that they would be doing a whole lot more of it.

  80. Hi Mitch,
    All this talk about reading makes me think back to something Mario Vargas Llosa once said: That the most important think he learned happened when he was a child. He learned to read.
    I’ve been thinking about reading a lot lately as I’ve tried to bring books back onto my agenda. The smartest thing I’ve done for myself recently is to commit to writing a business book review blog series (and not for my blog…where the only deadlines are self-imposed). It’s disciplining me to stop snacking on content and instead read and think more deeply about some it. Reading MacroWikinomics right now (hat tip to you for the suggestion), which is truly fascinating.
    Hope you are having a good weekend,

  81. I try to keep bookmarks in no more than three or four books at a time. I find that I don’t really focus on any of them if I do more than that. That happened to me a lot in undergrad.

  82. It really depends on what I am reading, mostly a long challenging novel, a non-fiction book and a quick crime read – more than that on the shelve gets me distracted and I take longer to finish them all than I would have by reading them one by one.

  83. Two things to add to this.
    1. Julien wrote a while ago that we should challenge ourselves when choosing the material, like “what would I recommend to a friend?” Would it be the latest Lee Child novel or David Foster Wallace or David Halberstam?
    2. I wonder if other readers had phases, too? I started hanging out in the library as a little kid, switched my focus to music and playing guitar completely when I was 15, and switched back to books when I entered college. The guitar mostly collects dust now. Should I expect another turnaround soon?

  84. I’m in the middle of:
    – The Naked Presenter by Garr Reynolds.
    – The Master Switch by Tim Wu.
    – I Live In The Future And Here’s How It Works by Nick Bilton.
    Im enjoying all three!

  85. As I was writing my Three Words for 2011 post, your article here came up as a suggested one through the Zemanta plugin. It may have been because I mentioned reading books at least three times.
    Last year I initially set out to read 52 books in a year. In one sense, I failed, because I didn’t reach my goal. In another, I succeeded because I read 3 times more than I did in 2009.
    Reading has become a habit, and I have people like you and the community you have around you to thank for that, Mitch.

  86. Hi Mitch,
    I too am a firm believer in reading. Ifeel it is important to pick up a non-bursiness related book every once in awhile. It allows for a mental holiday of sorts while at the same time it will help your writing style. Great post!

  87. I just finished reading Dan Miller’s book “No More Mondays” where he talks about the pursuit of meaningful work. There’s a section in the book where he equates the size of one’s income to the size of one’s library. He also mentions that when he’s at a point where he knows he needs to find a new direction for his business, he devotes even more time than usual to reading.
    I can honestly say for myself, that reading more has given me more to talk about and more enthusiasm, too!

  88. I think most of us feel we don’t have enough time to do more reading, but I think it’s an illusion. You simply need to make it a priority for a while, until it becomes integrated into your daily routine.
    Reading is energizing. Want more energy and ideas, do more reading.

  89. I’m impressed with what you have done with an unfinished grad degree. I’ve really appreciated your comments. Thank you

  90. I’m impressed with what you have done with an unfinished grad degree. I’ve really appreciated your comments. Thank you

  91. I’m impressed with what you have done with an unfinished grad degree. 5I’ve really appreciated your comments. Thank you

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